Sebastian was bouncing up and down in his seat as Mindy and Daniel slid into the booth across from him.
The table was littered with pieces of paper covered in notes and scribbles. Sebastian had clearly been drafting some sort of plan.
“Thanks for rushing over, guys.” Sebastian straightened a few of the pages distractedly. “Do you want a soda or a sub or anything?”
Mindy shook her head.
Always polite, Daniel replied “No thank you, Pastor Sebastian.”
Small talk out of the way, Sebastian leaned back in the booth. “Mindy, Daniel, God has presented me with a brilliant idea and I wanted to share it with you first.”
Mindy exchanged a quick look with Daniel. She didn’t know the Pastor all the well, but her impression was that he received inspiration from God on a regular basis and most of the ideas were nothing more than harebrained schemes.
“What does our congregation need more than anything else?”
Daniel thought for a moment. “More members?”
“No. Well, we do need more members but this will help us get them.”
“Music lessons for the band?” Mindy guessed.
Sebastian shot her an exasperated look. “No. You are not very good at this, are you? I’ll just tell you. We need to get out of the movie theater. We have to get our own church.”
Having no idea where the conversation was going, Mindy and Daniel just nodded.
“And what’s stopping us from getting a church? No. Don’t guess. It’s money.”
“We work at Payless, Pastor Sebastian. I can’t give any more than I’m already giving each week.”
Sebastian held up his hand. “I’m not asking for your money, Daniel. I know how we’re going to raise the money and it’s thanks to you and Mindy. And God too, of course.”
Daniel had noticed that Pastor Sebastian liked to create suspense. Each week in his sermon he would take a long, dramatic pause before he gave what Daniel liked the think of as the punch line, although he knew that technically sermons didn’t have punch lines.
So he wasn’t surprised when Sebastian stopped to take a sip of his Mountain Dew and check his cell phone after announcing that God had presented him with a fundraising plan.
Mindy hated drama. She only waited a few minutes before urging Sebastian on. “We only have a half hour lunch break, Pastor. Spit it out.”
Sebastian set his phone on the table. “Chringles!” he announced, his eyes gleaming.
“Chringles?” Daniel was certain he had misheard.
“What’s a chringle?” Mindy’s patience was growing thin. Daniel touched her leg under the table. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
“It’s the name of The Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry’s new online dating site. It’s a combination of Christian Singles. At first I was going to call it “Christsins”, but I didn’t think that worked as well as Chringles.”
Mindy looked skeptical. “The church is going to start an online dating service? For Christian singles?”
Pastor Sebastian grinned at her. “I know! It’s brilliant, right? There’s a whole page of questions about religion on Match.com. We won’t even need that. We’ll be Christian and quicker too.”
Ready to leave, Mindy looked at her watch. But Daniel asked, “How did Mindy and I inspire this idea exactly?”
Sebastian smiled at the couple, tilting his head to the left. “Your love is just so beautiful. And it all started at our ministry. If only one couple finds each other like you did, it would be worth it.”
Daniel felt Mindy tense beside him. They hadn’t been dating long, but he already recognized the signs that she was about to call Sebastian on what she called “his bullshit.”
“First of all, Sebastian, Daniel and I didn’t meet at your Ministry. We work together. We met before I even started going to church.”
The pastor nodded. “You’re right, Mindy. But The Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love was your first date. God and my sermon that day cemented the bond that you forged at Payless. I know that in my heart, as do you.”
Mindy opened her mouth to argue, but Daniel jumped in. “I’m sure you’re right, Pastor. And it’s a great idea.”
“I only want to help people like you, Daniel.”
“And make money.” Mindy reminded him.
Sebastian looked offended for the first time. “What?”
“You said this was a way for the Ministry to make money. You’re not really in it just to make Christian love matches.” Mindy crossed her arms.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with raising money for a church while helping Christian singles. It’s all in the service of God.” Sebastian started gathering up his papers.
“And frankly I’m a little hurt that you would be such a Negative Nellie. I have a great fundraising idea that will allow us to celebrate God’s love in our own space and I call you because I know you will understand how brilliant my plan is. But all you do is make snide comments. Obviously you aren’t as invested in the Ministry as I thought you were.”
Daniel felt ill. He knew that Mindy had a life outside of work and church. She had a motorcycle and friends. But he didn’t. Before he started attending services at The Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry, all he had were horror movies and the waitress at Denny’s. Pastor Sebastian and his congregation were important to him.
He held out his hand to stop Sebastian from leaving. “Mindy didn’t mean it like that, Pastor. She was just testing you. To see if you had the plan all thought out. She was being a devil’s advocate. No, wait, not a devil’s advocate. More like a doubting Thomas. You know, the apostle.”
He shot Mindy a look, willing her to back him up.
She sighed. “Yeah, I was testing you. And you passed.”
Sebastian put his papers back down on the table and grinned. “Well, of course I passed. God wouldn’t let me fail.”